Businesswoman Loeffler Selected to Fill GA Senate Seat

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) has appointed business executive Kelly Loeffler to fill the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) when he retires at the end of the year. Loeffler is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the financial services firm Bakkt. There will not be a primary to fill Isakson’s seat, which he has held since 2005, next year. Instead, Georgia will hold a special election in which all candidates will appear on the ballot in November together. If no candidate achieves a 50 percent threshold, a runoff election between the top two candidates will be held in January 2021.

Holding, Graves Announce Plans to Retire

Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.) announced his decision to retire at the end of the 116th Congress. Holding is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, also announced his retirement last week. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) also announced that he will plead guilty to campaign finance violations and resign his congressional seat shortly after the holidays.

Senate Releases CY 2020 Schedule

The Senate has released its schedule for calendar year (CY) 2020. The previously-released 2020 calendar for the House of Representatives can be found here.

Hospitals Sue HHS Over Price Transparency Rule

The hospital industry is suing the Trump administration to block a regulation that would require them to publish the rates they negotiate with insurers. The lawsuit argues that requiring the disclosure of negotiated payment rates violates the First Amendment, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Administrative Procedures Act. The hospitals believe that regulation would undermine competition, confuse patients, and impose a massive financial and time-consuming burden on hospitals. The final rule, which was issued on November 15, is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2021. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court by the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, and three individual hospitals. The hospitals seek expedited review of the case because of the extensive steps they believe will be required to comply with the rule.

AARP Pushes Congress to Keep Medical Expense Deduction

The AARP is urging Congress to include a permanent repeal of the increased income threshold above which medical expenses can be deducted. The ACA increased the threshold for which taxpayers could deduct medical expenses from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10 percent. Congress lowered the floor back to 7.5 percent in 2017, but the change was only in effect through January 1, 2019. AARP argues that the policy should be reversed as soon as possible to avoid 4.4 million Americans who use the deduction from facing higher taxes this filing season. Bicameral legislation (S.110/H.R. 2073) has been introduced to restore the pre-ACA threshold. The Senate Finance Committee had examined the medical deduction in its effort to address certain expiring provisions but has not reached a consensus on how to act on any of the health-related issues.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings and Markups

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing “Securing the U.S. Drug Supply Chain: Oversight of FDA’s Foreign Inspection Program;” 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.; December 10

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine encryption and lawful access, focusing on evaluating benefits and risks to public safety and privacy; 10:00 a.m., 226 Dirksen Bldg.; December 10

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing “Proposals to Achieve Universal Health Care Coverage;” 10:30 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.; December 10

House Rules Committee meeting on H.R. 3—Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019; 3:00 p.m., H-313 Capitol; December 10

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee executive session to consider legislation including S. 2661, National Suicide Hotline Designation Act; 10:00 a.m., G50 Dirksen Bldg.; December 11

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee executive session to consider legislation including Title VII Reauthorization and S. 2080, Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA); 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.; December 12

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